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City lags on determining which police jobs could be filled by civilians, IG says

Updated: January 7, 2014 6:27AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not yet conducted a sweeping review of Chicago Police Department positions that could be civilianized, even as he uses $93 million in police overtime this year — and $75 million more next year — to mask a manpower shortage, the inspector general has concluded.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson said turning police jobs into civilian positions “remains a work in progress” nearly one year after Emanuel vowed to follow the IG’s recipe to save up to $16.6 million a year and put another 292 police officers on the street.

Since then, the Police Department claims to have moved 126 sworn officers from administrative and dispatch jobs to the streets and identified 65 other jobs to be filled by civilians. Fifty of those jobs have been filled, 13 of them by transferring civilians already working elsewhere in the Police Department.

Police officials also lobbied for a change in state law that will allow retired police officers to serve subpoenas, freeing even more officers for crime-fighting duties once the Law Department gets around to hiring civilians.

But Ferguson said he was unable to determine whether the positions the Police Department has identified “correspond” to the 292 positions recommended to be turned into civilian jobs in his January report.

More important, Ferguson concluded that even as overtime skyrockets the Police Department has yet to conduct a “department-wide review and written analysis to identify positions in all sections” that could be performed by civilians.

No new positions should be filled with sworn officers unless “law enforcement powers or skills are required for that position,” the IG said. He is conducting a similar review to determine what jobs could be turned into civilian jobs in the Chicago Fire Department.

“Potential savings from a civilianization effort on par with the practices of many other major municipal police departments is a means of freeing up millions of dollars at a time of general citywide fiscal constraints, mounting CPD overtime expenditures, challenges in collective bargaining negotiations and the looming pension cliff,” Ferguson was quoted as saying in a news release.

Although he’s “encouraged” by the department’s “commitment” to civilianization, Ferguson said his follow-up “suggests the efforts “remain incremental and opaque. CPD should be conducting a department wide review to identify positions in all sections that can be performed by civilian personnel now or in the future.”

The Chicago Police Department said it appreciates Ferguson’s help to “monitor and expand” Emanuel’s goal of moving more officers from administrative jobs to crime-fighting duty.

“In addition to the more than 1,000 moved to beats in the past two years, this year we moved an additional 126 officers from administrative positions back to the street. We’re hiring civilians and constantly evaluating this to ensure our officers are deployed appropriately,” Police Department spokesman Adam Collins wrote in a statement emailed to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Police officials are reviewing the IG’s audit and plans to meet with his staff in the coming weeks to discuss ways to improve our tracking system,” Collins said.

“We continue to implement a comprehensive strategy that includes these civilianization strategies, putting additional officers in high-crime areas, using intelligence to prevent retaliatory gang shootings, and partnering with the community. While there has been less crime, fewer shootings and fewer murders in Chicago this year, there’s more work to be done,” he said.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) responded to the follow-up report by demanding that the Police Department stop dawdling and start identifying every available job currently held by a sworn officer that could be civilianized.

“No more waiting around. This needs to get done as fast as they can. Taxpayers are expecting it. Aldermen are expecting it. If they’re not working through this on a much faster pace, then we’re going to have to force the effort,” Waguespack said.

Asked why it’s so important to civilianize as quickly and extensively as the police contract allows, Waguespack said, “Because of the massive amount of unnecessary overtime we’re spending. Because of the need for more officers out on the street. Because of the need to manage the Police Department properly — especially after we’ve had station closings and a reduction in officers in many of our areas.”

In the report issued Thursday, Ferguson said the Police Department cited a “number of reasons why” civilianization of police jobs is a painstaking process. It requires following collective bargaining agreements, training new hires and working within the constraints of the city budget.

As he did this year, Emanuel’s 2014 budget includes the money to hire only enough police officers to keep pace with retirements.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) cast one of only five votes against the mayor’s budget, largely because he was angry that the mayor’s forces buried a $25 million plan to hire hundreds of additional police officers, instead of relying so heavily on “stop-gap” measures like police overtime.

“While hiring more police officers won’t solve the problem of street violence in and of itself, it is clear” that Chicago needs more police officers, Fioretti said last week.

“I cannot in good conscience support a budget that fails to address our fundamental needs.”

When Ferguson issued his first report in January, Emanuel vowed to follow the inspector general’s cost-cutting recipe, so long as the police union contract did not prevent it. He claimed he had already reassigned as many as 580 officers from desk jobs to street duty.

“I welcome any report that says there’s another hundred, 200, 300, 150 additional officers that you can move from administrative office positions back onto the streets protecting our neighborhoods,” Emanuel said then.

“I’ve got to make sure there’s not any ... contractual issues. If there aren’t, I’m going to take a fresh look. ... It will be in line with what we started on Day One, which is to take police officers and move `em into the area of fighting crime and not into the area of moving paper and pushing paper…I hope it’s all 300. ... Whatever it is, we’re going to reassign those officers onto the streets if it makes sense.”


Twitter: @fspielman

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